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Options For (A Diversified?) Ground Attack

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Now that we have discussed the two biggest question marks around the unit, let’s shift our attention towards our running game. To start let’s go back to what Neuheisel and Chow told us back in April:

Neuheisel: "We’re formulating a scheme. I don’t know if it has the moniker that all the trendy offenses have now. I certainly wouldn’t call it Spread or the West Coast. I think where Norm is centered on is just being able to run the ball and protect the ball. It sounds overly simplistic, but if you can do both those things you can force defenses into a position where now big plays are available.

That doesn’t necessarily sound exciting. ‘Run the ball and protect the ball’ sounds very conservative. But I think if you can do both of those things successfully and commit to both of those things, the excitement then comes because the field now opens because you have to stop the run. You will bleed to death if you don’t stop run."

Chow: "We’re going to run the ball. To win in this game, in any league, you have to run the ball. I don’t think we’re going to revolutionize football. We’re going to continue to do things that [Neuheisel] and I know best.

"I think now it is a matter of what skills what kids can do. We’re not going to ask our kids to do something they are not capable of doing. Right now we put in base stuff that will fit just about anything, then we’ll wait and see."

I mentioned in my notes on our QBs about how for Ben Olson (or any other UCLA QB) to become effective they will have to focus on being more of a game manager than a gun slinger. For Ben or any other to become a successful game manager, it will be essential for UCLA to feature a consistent running attack, which hopefully will flourish taking advantage of multiple options (or at least potential of options) available in our depth chart.

So let’s review with what the coaches had to work with at the end of spring football:

36 Kahlil Bell (6-0, 206, Sr)(5) 31 Trevor Theriot (6-0, 233, Jr**)(6)
20 Raymond Carter (5-11, 202, Fr.**)
45 Tobi Umodu (6-0, 235, So**)
42 Chane Moline (6-1, 236, Jr)(1) OR

24 Christian Ramirez (6-3, 211, Jr.)
21 Craig Sheppard (6-1, 193, Jr.**)^

** denotes red-shirt
^ denotes walk-on
() indicates number of games started in 06

And here is a look at their stats from last season:

36 Kahlil Bell
42 Chane Moline
24 Christian Ramirez
24 (TD)
21 Craig Sheppard 28 133 4.8 20 (TD) 2

In addition to looking at running stats we also need to look at the receiving stats of our backs. We can probably expect Chow to ask his QBs to throw a lot of quick, short passes to our RBs (based on our experience in watching Chow offenses at Southern Cal, NC State and BYU):

36 Kahlil Bell
19 93 7.2
34 0
42 Chane Moline 4
20 5.0
21 Craig Sheppard
5 5.0
31 Trevor Theriot
11 3.7

Let’s start with Bell who didn’t waste any time sending a signal last season that he was a Pac-10 level running back:


Before his season ended at Washington State, Bell was on track to have a great season. As the highlights show above, he has all the tools of emerging as a dependable running back. The question he will have to answer is whether he will return to the same form he was showing before he went down. Let’s hope that he is completely healed up and ready to go. Coming into last season there were lot of stories about how he had rededicated himself to football after some hiccups during his initial years at UCLA. It was great to see him emerge as a dependable option out of the backfield. It would be great if he can return to form, and provide Chow with a valuable weapon in the backfield.

That brings us to Raymond Carter, who was a pretty highly recruited 4 star running back out of Crenshaw High School in the small 2007 recruiting class.  Just like Kahlil, Raymond is also looking to come back from an injury, which quashed his hopes for making an impact in his freshman year before it even got started. Raymond (like Kahlil) was held out of practice this past Spring, however from what we hear, he will probably be ready to go this Fall Camp. As noted earlier on BN, Sporting News singled out Carter as a possible "comeback player" because of his "breakaway speed." This is a guy I am looking forward to see getting some action because he was billed as RB who had the ability to be a "playmaker," something we haven’t had in our RB rotation since the departure of MJD.

Speaking of playmaker and freshmen, let’s talk about two of our freshmen tailbacks. There is Aundre Dean. Instead of describing his playmaking abilities, I will just go ahead and post these highlights that we put up in March (during the heat of Ben Ball season):

Aundre Dean ... Running Back ... Katy Texas from Bobby Gerry on Vimeo

I mean there is not much I need to add to that. Some folks are wondering whether AD will emerge as a starting RB this year. I don’t think he will. However, I do believe that he has the potential to make the same kind of impact as Foster did his freshman season. We will see how that works out.

Along with Dean, Bruins will also welcome Milton Knox into the fold this Fall. As we have written before Milton is the other part of "Thunder & Lightning" combination of this recruiting class. Now Milton is listed at 5-7.5, 196 in his current bio. He might get redshirted this coming season. However, he can be so explosive out of the backfield that he might just break into the rotation if is able to impress the coaches in Fall Camp. So if you live around Southern California, I would highly recommend heading down to Westwood for practices this August to see just how our running backs are looking.

But we are not done yet. Let’s get back to some of the returning backs who are currently listed on the depth chart. Christian Ramirez had a great spring camp and he finished off on a nice note during the scrimmage. He started the season at the safety spot last year. He was moved to TB after the injury to Carter and immediately made an impression during the Stanford game. However, he didn’t get another shot following a key fumble against Cal. So it will be interesting to see where he emerges in the depth chart following this Fall Camp. He certainly has shown the ability on the field. If he can keep at it, he can also emerge as another option for the coaches in this crowded backfield.

Speaking of "speed" don't forget about Jonathan "Jet Ski" Franklin, the incoming freshman RB-DB who happens to be a reality TV star. There is a chance Jet Ski could get redshirted because of the options we have at RB and infusion of talents such as Hester and Woods at DB. However, don't be too surprised if Jet Ski finds himself a spot in the special team because of his speed.

At FB Theriot did a serviceable job last season after the injury to Michael Pitre. Right now the position is thin. Tobi Umodu is a converted LB who has never played the position. So, I think it will be interesting to see whether Chane Moline remains at TB, if Dean (and Knox) emerge as viable options right away this Fall. It might not be a bad idea to shift Moline to FB. He has the size to play the position. And with his TB skills with him at FB, Chow might be able to put together the classic dual threat combo ala Roger Craig and Tom Rathman many of us Niners fans enjoyed back in the Day. Don’t forget we have Derrick Coleman coming in as a freshman in this year class. At 6-0, 220 Coleman might get redshirted this year as the future at FB, but you never know given the lack of depth at FB position.

Speaking of doing an admirable job, Craig Sheppard did just that last season when he had to step up as our running backs were going down towards the end of the season. I imagine he is going to make the youngsters compete hard to take over this position during the Fall Camp. At the very least his game experience from last year will be helpful to the entire unit.

So in conclusion, this is one position our coaches will have options. They will have a lot of young talent at their disposal. If they can put together a diversified running attack featuring fully recovered and healthy crew from last year and blend them in with the talent of the young crew this year, it will a great development for our entire offensive unit. A dependable running attack will allow our QBs to manage the game more efficiently, and more importantly allow Chow to put together his patented schemes keeping the opposing DCs on their heels.